Bowel screening saves Santa

News article

22 December 2020
Glenn Horrex takes up his spot in Santa’s grotto
Glenn Horrex takes up his spot in Santa’s grotto.

The National Bowel Screening Programme is always delighted to hear when someone has benefited from bowel screening — and the joy is extra special when that lucky person is a Christmas VIP.

70-year-old Glenn Horrex from Whanganui was looking forward to his gig as the resident Santa at a local shopping mall, when a bowel screening test kit arrived in the post from the National Bowel Screening Programme. 

“I thought the test kit was really cool, so I read up on the screening programme, did the test and sent it away,” Glenn says. “I was fine, had no symptoms, so I thought ‘that’ll be that’.”

Glenn then got a call from his doctor to say the test was positive and an appointment was made for a colonoscopy, where the bowel is examined with a tiny camera. Unfortunately, the earliest appointment was for 14 December and Glenn was on duty at the mall from 12 December.

“I couldn’t bear to disappoint the children, so I was thinking I’d have to postpone the procedure until the new year.”

When the hospital team heard who their new patient was and the important job he had, they knew they had to do something.

“We decided we had to do an extra appointment on December 11,” said Dr Marianne Lill. “No one missed out – he was an extra.”

At 11am on the 11th of December, Glenn had his colonoscopy, and at 11am on the 12th Father Christmas was “in the suit and ready to go”.

A positive test result does not necessarily mean cancer, and in fact, Glenn had some polyps growing on his bowel which Dr Lill removed. He has now been put on three-yearly surveillance.

Dr Lill said it was good that Glenn did not delay the operation as one of the growths was at an advanced stage.

“The whole thing went like a breeze, and the people were wonderful … so professional and so kind,” said Glenn.

“It made me realise this is so important, so why don’t we talk about it more? This screening programme will save lives. If they catch the cancer early, you’ve got a real good chance of a good life.”

Around 780 New Zealanders have had cancers detected through the National Bowel Screening Programme since it began just over three years ago and thousands, like Glenn, have had pre-cancerous polyps removed.

The Programme encourages everyone who has received a bowel screening kit in the mail to wait until early in January to complete it to avoid any delays in the postal system over Christmas.

Find out more about the National Bowel Screening Programme.

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